Create a Watercolor Text Effect in Photoshop

In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at a quick and easy way to execute a watercolor text effect in Photoshop. By combining the right font, an awesome set of brushes, a filter and a few other subtle techniques, realistic watercolor text is a breeze to create. This tutorial is geared to anyone who has played around in Photoshop a dozen or more times. Let’s jump right in!

What We Are Creating

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Gather A Few Materials

There are only two resources that you’ll need to pull off this effect and one of them isn’t really even required. First, you’ll need a single or set of high-resolution watercolor brushes. For this specific tutorial, I’m using this brush set provided by WeGraphics. The second resource you’ll need is a paper texture. There are thousands of these available on the web, just look around at DeviantArt and you’ll find one suited for the job. Let’s jump into the tutorial.

Step 1: Background Placement

Choose a size for the project you want to work on and place the paper texture into the project. If you want to follow step-by-step, I’m using a 660px X 300px canvas size.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 2: Type Placement

Throw out some text on the canvas. In my opinion a serif, script or handdrawn font is more appealing with the watercolor look. Here, I’ve used the font “Larry Regular” at 178pt with the Standard Ligatures turned on. This can be located in the Character Window near the bottom. The color of the text is not significant at this point.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 3: Layer Style Options

On the text layer, drop the fill down to 0% and double click the layer to bring up the Layer Style options. Add an inside stroke of 1px at an opacity around 44%. The color of the stroke should match the color that you plan to use with the watercolor brush. I went with the color #023d8b for this tutorial. This is what you should have so far:

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 4: Select Text

Hold down (CTRL – for PC) or (CMD – for Mac) while clicking the thumbnail of the type layer to select the text. Now add a new layer above all others and make sure that you are on this newly created layer. The text should still be selected, indicated by a dashed line surrounding the text.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Step 5: Apply Brush

While on the newly created layer and with the outline of the text still selected, grab your brush tool and choose a watercolor brush that is larger than the height and width of your text. If you downloaded the set of brushes mentioned at the beginning of the article, try using the brush titled “Water 6”. This particular brush is 1,895 pixels wide and is plenty large enough to cover a line of text.

Make sure you have your foreground color set to match the same color that you set your stroke at, #023d8b for this example. Simply click on the layer to apply a watercolor effect inside the outlined text. You may have to repeat this step several times until you get to look the way you want, CTRL +Z is your friend in this case.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Remove the selection and you can see that the effect is coming along nicely.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Looks pretty good, but there is still one more step we can take to make it a bit more convincing…

Step 6: Apply Filter

While still on the layer where you applied the watercolor brush, go to Filter > Distort > Ripple… Change the amount to around 36% and the size to medium and hit OK. This will help to remove some of those straight lines and add a slight ripple effect along the edges of the text. You’ll see that the stroke remains in place allowing the watercolor to spill slightly over the edges.

Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

Wrapping Things Up

So there it is, digital watercolor typography the easy way. If you want more tutorials and brushes, I’ve written another post compiling several watercolor tutorials and brush sets. There are a number of places where this type treatment could come in handy in both print and web design alike. If you enjoyed the tutorial, or know of some ways to improve it, I would love to here your thoughts in the comment section.

75 Comments

+Add your comment
  1. Allan

    Very easy to follow tutorial with an excellent outcome. I’ll be using this in some future work. I love the colors that you used. Thanks for the tutorial!

    • go

      me too

    • I’m glad that you two enjoyed it :)

  2. I agree, easy to follow and understand. You could easily change the stain to a brownish color, add a coffee stain etc. Not only a good tut, but good for inspiration.

    Thanks.

    • Coffee stains would definitely mix well with the watercolor look. Great suggestion!

  3. Ericka

    Lovely effect! I’ve always been a fan of watercolor, now I can create it digitally. Thank you for the tutorial!

    • You’re welcome Ericka. Glad you found it useful.

  4. Hi Shawn,

    Great effect. Not too many steps for a great outcome!!!

    • Thanks bud! I was trying to keep it short and simple.

  5. Viv

    Beautiful effect!!!! can’t believe it’s so simple to create, thanks for sharing!!

  6. Really nice looking effect Shawn. Great job!

  7. Great and well explained tutorial! Thanks :) Will definitely try it on my personal project :) Thanks

  8. Excellent work.. as simple as it can get…

    • That means a lot Richie. No need to complicate something that can easily be pulled off.

  9. Watercolor has always been my favorite, love the tutorial!!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it Rocky! I’ve always loved the look of watercolor as well :)

  10. Fantastic tutorial! Thank you : )

  11. cool!! easy to follow.
    watermark is not as build-in as we thought…

  12. James Lacy

    Could you make this any easier? Nice job and nice effect!

  13. webvitaminz

    wow… this is a great tutorial… thnx for share!!!

  14. Awesome tutorial! Thank you so much!!

  15. Louise

    Great, Easy tutorial AND I LOVE THE WATERCOLOR BRUSHES – a must to download!!!

  16. tyna

    THNAK YOU. This just made my day! you are my hero.

  17. Tammy

    Fantastic tutorial, clear, easy to follow and great results.
    I’ve used this effect for my engagement invitations :)

  18. Jacqueline

    Loved it
    Thanks :)

  19. Great tutorial! I love the simple but authentic effect. Very realistic!

  20. mavil

    thank you! used this for my project..

  21. Carol

    Aloha from Hawaii,
    Mahalo (that’s thank you in Hawaiian) for this terrific tutorial on creating a watercolor text effect. It was very easy to follow and I loved the end results.
    Mahalo for sharing.

  22. This tutorial was extremely helpful. I did a search on Google and yours came up. I’ve been wondering how to do this for awhile and now I’m finally able to do it for a personal project. Thanks!!! :D

  23. Tahlia

    What photoshop is this using?

  24. Esther

    I can’t follow these steps with CS5 on my Mac, unfortunately. I can’t figure out how to get the text to stay selected and it wants to rasterize the layer before applying
    the brush.

    I can get the outline of the text but nothing further.

  25. Ruth

    Thank you so much–this was so excellent and worked like a charm! I’m so grateful!

  26. Tess

    AMAZING! Thanks so much :) you have answered all of my prayers seriously!!

  27. Thanks for this so-simple tutorial! Definitely will be using it as I redesign my site. :)

  28. chelsea

    Just what I needed, thank you!!

  29. Ina

    Is it easy to make the background transparent and just have the word?

  30. Kim

    Wonderful tutorial…it came out looking great! Thanks for sharing :-)

  31. Jan

    Glad I found this tut. Easy to handle! Thx!
    @Ina, yes it is.

  32. Anh

    Hi Thanks for this tutorial!! I had fun creating water colour script writing.

  33. Looks like I’m the only person who didn’t get through to the end…can somebody help?

    At Step 5 where it says “Simply click on the layer to apply a watercolor effect inside the outlined text” – I tried this but the tool was a black outline of something that looked like a giant blob hovering over the selected text, but clicking achieved nothing..any ideas friendly folks?

  34. Amy

    Thank you so much! This is a great tutorial and I love the font:)

  35. sharon

    Thank you, this is so incredibly helpful, not to mention easy!

  36. This is cool! and easy to follow. Thanks <3

  37. I LOVE this tutorial and have used it a few times already and definitely have stored it away in my arsenal for design work.
    Thanks for the great share!

  38. bree

    thanks for making this so easy and simple to learn! love that I have freedom to tweak as well.

  39. RJ

    thanks so much for this. wow! :)

  40. Teri

    Grr, I guess I’m the only one who can’t get this to work. I get all the way to “simply click on the layer to apply the color…” (Step 5) and all I get is white fill in the text. I set everything exactly as described with the exception of the font (I don’t have Fontin Bold, so used Futura. My foreground color is set to #023d8b and I’m using the “Water 6” brush. I’m using CS6. Any ideas?

  41. Nice tutorial, Another note I have that could you say something how to change font on a text layer? Actually I want to change all text layers at the same time. Is it possible then let me know about it?

  42. Kassie

    Just did this tutorial and it was extremely helpful! Thank you!!! :)

  43. Syd

    Thanks so much for this! It’s easy to follow and perfectly suited for what I needed.

  44. Rita

    Hello! I want to make a transparent logo but if I untick the background layer it will take some of the watercolor looking texture with it….how can I apply it to the text and save ONLY the text as a PNG? Thanks for this awesome tutorial by the way!!!!!!!!!!!! Please advise if you can! Thanks again!!

    ~Rita

  45. Amy

    I am having a little trouble with step 5. I am in CS6 (Mac).
    I am on the new layer, the text is selected. I selected the brush. The foreground color is set. When I click on the new layer, the outline of the brush doesn’t place. It just stays floating around with my cursor.

    What am I doing wrong?

    • @Amy – Is the layer you’re applying the brush to above all other layers?

  46. Amy

    Thanks for your quick response. I primarily work in Indesign and Illustrator. I am trying to learn Photoshop.

    I took a screen shot of my layers panel and tried to insert it, but it didn’t work.

    Here are the layers in the Layers Panel from top to bottom:
    New Layer (trying to apply the brush)
    Amy
    Paper Texture

    • @Amy – No problem! When you select the text, before applying the brush, is there a dashed line surrounding the text?

      Also, are you able to apply the brush to just a blank layer without any selected text? Make sure the brush color is not the same as your background.

      Also, make sure the ‘New Layer’ is not a clipping mask (indicated by a tiny arrow pointing down at the layer below. It will not work if so.

  47. Amy

    I just tried it again. I started a whole new document and your instructions worked like they are supposed to. I have no idea what I did. Thanks for your help!

  48. Tom

    hi i this tutorial is exactly what i was looking for, however I’m using it for hand lettering. So i’ve drawn it out, scanned it, vectorised it on illustrator and now I’m completely stuck. I have no idea how to start the process haha! Please help!!! Thanks :)

  49. Martina

    Great tutorial Shawn! Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for it for ages.

  50. Lia

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I found it so easy to do – it’s been driving me mad trying to figure it out for myself!

  51. Linda

    This was very helpful. Much appreciated! The only issue I had is I’m using PSE10 on a PC and in order to change the “fill” opacity, which does not show up on the menu is to select the text layer and hit shift 1, or 2 or whatever.

    Thanks again so very much.

  52. I’ve always wondered how people do the watercolor effect. So happy I found this. Thank you!

  53. Nice tutorial
    That’s exactly what I was looking for
    Thanks and keep sharing some more tutorial of this kind

  54. Ann

    I just wanted to say thanks so much.
    This was really helpful! Truly appreciate it.

  55. Lauren

    Cant’ find the right brush…. I found dry water brush which doesn’t do anything. Using PhotoShop CC 2014

    • Are you sure you have a color chosen when applying the brush? You may need to reinstall the brushes, if you don’t see it available.

  56. Karen

    Love it, very easy! I just played with some blending modes a little as an added effect. Thanks for sharing

    • Great idea with the blending modes. Glad you found the tutorial helpful!

  57. avolovers

    thank you for sharing this, it worked perfectly!!

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad it worked perfectly for you.

  58. Mujette

    Hi! This is perfect for my project! Is it ok for you to share a copy of the font style?

    • The link to the font is in the tutorial. I can’t share the actual font file with you.

  59. Mich

    So easy! I love this tutorial!

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